Eating Issues / Relationship with Food / Bodies

Eating issues (or what might be considered eating disorders or disordered eating) are immensely complicated and multi-determined. 

It is hard to have a peaceful relationship with one's body and with food when we live in a society that tells people otherwise. This includes the the medical industry. In recent years, talk of "BMI" and alarmist ideas about "health" have further consolidated the idea that, to have a body, especially a body that does not conform, is bad. Many other institutions within society contribute. Some workplaces may promote weight loss under the guise of "wellness"; life insurance companies may deny policies based on body size; the entertainment industries may require a certain body type in order to perform; some religious institutions may overtly or more implicitly equate food restraint with morality; athletic teams may encourage dangerous eating and exercise practices and a certain type of body; etc. Some learn that their bodies and/or their appetites are shameful because they are "other" (i.e. disabled, ethnic minority, gender minority, etc.). While people of all genders can and do have eating disorders, girls/women or those assigned female at birth enter a world in which their appetite, whether for food or other objects of desire, is deemed bad. 

Putting all these societal influences aside, there are many other reasons as to why one may develop difficulties in their relationship with food and/or their body. Food is a life necessity, and feeding is one of the first tasks of a baby -- so, issues with food often run deep. Family factors, of various forms, are often at play when it comes to eating issues. Intergenerational trauma is at play for some and can be difficult to discern due to its nature. Some people grow up in homes in which food is scarce, so food may become something that is either coveted or limited or both. Some grow up in homes where food is bountical, but it is regarded as something that must be limited and controlled. Some people grow up in homes in which relationships with food are healthy, but other forms of relating are troubled in a variety of ways: from overt abuse, to more subtle misattunements, to lack of any boundaries, to overly rigid boundaries, among many other possibilities. Some people are more biologically pre-disposed toward compulsive and/or rigid ways of relating to the world, and this may translate over into food. Some people are pre-disposed to experience difficulties with interoception, resulting in them being disconnected from hunger cues and/or fullness cues. Some people experience very early loss or traumas that they do not remember, which affects them on a deep level that is hard to capture in words but may be expressed symbolically through how one relates to food. So, food issues can be quite complex! And, of course, eating disorders take many forms and may change over time.

Plus, importantly, one's body appearance says little about the nature of an individual's relationship with food. While some individuals who have anorexia may indeed be emaciated, many are not. People who have binge eating disorder exist in all sizes, as do those with bulimia. While some people in larger bodies may have eating disorders, some do not at all and may actually have a healthy relationship with food (although this may be hard, if they are subject to critiques of their bodies). While it is common for people to think of anorexia and binge eating disorder as polar opposites, it sometimes is hard to determine which one is actually happening for a person, as they can overlap so much (consider a person who does not eat all day and binges at night). Our categorization system of diagnostic labels is limiting for this reason. 

Some people with eating disorders who enter treatment fear that their eating disorder will be taken away from them. On the face of it, this may seem odd. Why wouldn't someone want their eating disorder to go away? It's not that simple. The eating disorder can serve many purposes. It can be a way of structuring one's life; it can be a way of communicating; it can be a way to focus on something concrete when everything else feels too difficult or painful to face; it can be a way of stalling time when the future seems so uncertain and scary; it can be a way of channeling anger that is hard to express in words or even in thought. In some cases, an eating disorder can even become a person's pseudo-identity, which means that letting go of it is very hard, unless that individual is able to cultivate other aspects of themselves in order to create a fuller sense of a genuine identity.

For some, eating disorder recovery is a shorter process, even if the eating disorder may linger for a while or even a long time in more subtle forms, or more so through thoughts that pop up every so often (especially during stressful times). For some, the process may be longer. Regardless of an individual's situation, the goal is that over time, life will become centered around other pursuits and less focused on food and/or your body. There is no one "right" way to do recovery, and the very idea of a "right" way sometimes fuels the very perfectionism that is characteristic of some types of eating disorders (such as anorexia). A set-back does not have to mean that all is lost. 

It is courageous to embark on this work. Recovery, whatever that means for you, is possible.


Eating Disorder Support Groups / Organizations / Information


Body Activism / Changing the Narrative Around Food  (The Association for Size Diversity and Health)   (National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance)   (Fighting Eating Disorders in Underrepresented Populations: A Trans+ & Intersex Collective)


Medical / Size Inclusive:

(spreadsheet of weight-neutral medical doctors)

(fat-friendly healthcare)

(Tory Stroker Nutrition - NJ/NY Weight Neutral Providers)

(Anti-Diet, Weight Inclusive Providers Database)






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